Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape – UL Protection Packs Up Small
Let’s start with “wow” and a little confession.
I was given the cape in October after ski season had started. It has been an amazing season and I have spent every spare moment in the snow. After much procrastination, I actually put the cape up today. The skiing this year is not the only thing that is incredible.
Why do I say this?
Here is the big picture. I always carry some sort of shelter when I am more than a few miles from the road. Also, my son and I usually take a tarp when we go backpacking. It has been a while since I slept in a tent yet for three seasons of the year we spend many nights out. When I choose gear I like to be strategic. Why bring a warm sleeping bag when you can bring a lighter one and down jacket and maybe pants? You get where I am going with this. Here is the catch, things intended for many uses often aren’t good for any one of them. Case in point I have a poncho tarp at home and I never (and I mean never) use it. This may also be a reason I was slow to take the Gatewood out for a spin. That was unfortunate, here is a product that can reduce my weight and serve many functions. Not only that it can do them all well.
My experience with tarps
I started ramping up my lightweight approach with Alpine climbing. But back in the ’80s that meant going without rather than finding a lighter solution. Life was sometimes miserable. Then when I started backpacking with the boy “light is right” became our mantra. Think about it. My pack weighed 45 lbs, his weighed 10 lbs and he weighed 45 lbs. Basically, I signed up for the Denali death march every time he reckoned we should stop and camp at 11.00 am. After a few experiences, my three-year-old and I decided to “lighten up”. Back then we lived in AK and a bug net was wise. On coming back to CO we have ditched even that. This cape weighs in at 10 oz with the guy lines and stuff sack, which are all attached. You use a trekking pole and 6 stakes to pitch it. Six Moon Design has a 2.3 oz stake kit)
This is so much better in wet weather than a tarp because it is pyramid shaped.
Like a mid, there are no open sides. Depending on how high you raise the pole or hang the cape you can block out the weather completely. Or, you can ventilate and reduce condensation. If you are using it with the serenity net tent then it is a one person shelter. If we hang it and use a ground cloth then my son (5’9”) and I (6’1”) will use it together and invite the dog in as well. Bear in mind, after hanging the food and stove we do not have anything to store inside having set up camp.
So what apart from the shape and weight do I like?
Well as I alluded to, this thing is a multi-use tool. As I said earlier we live in CO but I am from Wales. I know rain. I know what it is to sleep soggy and damp. I know how the onset of early arthritis feels. That may be why I emigrated. Here in CO, I would never go out without a rain jacket, but let’s be honest I hardly ever use it. 300 days of sunshine is a beautiful thing. I wear a wool base layer and a wind shirt most of the time and carry mid and warm layers. The cape now fills in the rest of my needs. It is also more breathable than any jacket. This means one less item in the backpack. Throw in the fact that it also protects your pack from the rain as well and life is great. If you are a canoeist, then this cape will also make a great sail, especially with a following wind. The cape is a natural spinnaker and you can ditch some wind by opening the hood. We can pitch it as an awning for cooking in the rain. When we finish the meal we can lay out the ground cloth and make camp. Now that is multi-use.
What impressed me when I pitched it was the amount of headroom. When we put up our tarp we choose how high we want it. We use either trekking poles or trees to set the height of the ridgeline. This means we can pitch it to stand under. But with a 10’ by 8’ tarp, we are likely to have a small dry area of the ground when pitched that high. Bringing the hanging points lower makes it drier. There is still headroom when sitting. The Gatewood has similar headroom to this. And, because it is a pyramid shape there is a lot of areas inside with that headroom for the amount of fabric used. The tarp comes in at 30 oz (more than twice the weight) with stakes and line but will sleep 3 in comfort.
Great build quality
The other thing that impresses me is Six Moon Designs’ beautiful quality. Wonderful stitching, well-chosen materials, light yet solid. Throw in good zips, well-designed suspension and cut for both cape and tarp. This is a great tool in the arsenal. It is going to have a lot of use on my solo trips with the dog. Remember to order the stakes and have it seam sealed before shipping.
I will post an update after I have got it out a few times. But, please know that ski season is going to be a long one this year.
What shelter, if any, should you carry?
I normally have a Rab bothy bag in my pack. It is a habit from my instruction days. We always had one big enough for our whole group. I picked mine up in Sierra Trading post for $30 having always carried a (relatively heavy) 4 person one from the UK for over 20 years. The Gatewood Cape MSRP $135, is a great option as are other mid designs. I went up Bierstadt with a paramedic and we both lamented the size of 1st aid kits in our guiding days and agreed, shelter food and a minimal 1st aid and fix it kit are far more useful in terms of dealing with scenarios.
Read more about Six Moon Designs here:
About Wil Rickards:
Wil was born in North Wales and steeped in its rich maritime, mountain and river folklore. In response to the request to “get a real job” he became first a teacher then professor of adventure education.
He then emigrated to where the sun shines for 300 days and snowfalls for 100 (Colorado). During more than 25 years as an outdoor educator, he worked Scottish winter seasons, taught canoeing, climbing, kayaking, and skiing throughout the States, Europe, and Australia. He also regenerated the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Outdoor Education program. His biggest adventure (by far) is fatherhood. It has also been the inspiration for his website www.wherethefruitis.com.
Things he likes to do include (middle) aging gracefully, and skiing (telemark) aggressively. He is happiest outdoors with a good view, good company, good weather/snow and the residue of self-powered adventure; sweat, a manic grin, and wild eyes.